Domestic violence and dowry deaths are prevalent in India. And by that, I mean it’s all around us. We all know of people in our families or among our friends who have at some point faced domestic violence, or have perpetrated it. But how often have we looked away and done nothing because we don’t know what to do?
There are three laws in place in India that deal directly with domestic violence: The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. And Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 is a civil law that provides protection to women in a household, from men in the household. This law not only protects women who are married to men but it also protects women who are in live-in relationships, as well as family members including mothers, grandmothers, etc. Under this law, women can seek protection against domestic violence, financial compensation, the right to live in their shared household, and they can get maintenance from their abuser in case they are living apart.
This law is to ensure that women do not get kicked out of their own homes and are able to sustain themselves if they have been abused. It is also meant for protecting women from their abusers – a Magistrate can pass a protection order under the Act to ensure the abuser doesn’t contact or get close to the survivor.
The second law is the Dowry Prohibition Act. This is a criminal law that punishes the taking and giving of dowry. Under this law, if someone takes, gives or even demands dowry, they can be imprisoned for 6 months or they can be fined upto Rs 5,000.
The third law that exists to help women who are facing violence at home is Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty). This is a criminal law, which applies to husbands or relatives of husbands who are cruel to women. Cruelty refers to any conduct that drives a woman to suicide or causes grave injury to her life or health – including mental health – and also includes harassment in the name of dowry. If convicted, people can be sent to jail for up to 3 years under this law.
Domestic violence is a social evil that is all around us. It’s high time that we stop ignoring it, and start equipping ourselves to deal with it.
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